Improving Health Through Medical Physics


Bruce Thomadsen, PhD | Madison, WI

AAPM Newsletter — Volume 43 No.1 — January | February 2018

The Road Ahead

As President-Elect talking at various chapters, I would point to the recent member survey that showed that for the most part the AAPM membership is happy with the Association. Of the eleven major categories, the only one that did not reach a 4 out of 5 on the "happiness scale" was "AAPM helps members to anticipate the challenges and trends that will likely impact the medical physics community." Admittedly, that did get a 3.9, but it is a topic that AAPM is taking very seriously. In fact, the theme for this summer's annual meeting is "Beyond the Future", a contradiction intended to highlight planning farther than five or even ten years from now. Currently, the healthcare situation seems to change daily. Well, maybe it only feels like that, but things are very unsettled.

To help give AAPM direction and to try to get AAPM into a good position in the uncertain future, starting with the Spring Clinical Meeting, the Board of Directors will concentrate on strategic planning. Yes, all 50 of them! Of course, the discussion will have to be guided. Board members will prepare topics and questions for the whole to consider. The goal is to provide the beginning of a plan to maintain a vital AAPM - one that will continue to do well on the "happiness scale." The domain for the discussion will have to be vast, covering the environment for community-based practice and academics, radiotherapy and imaging, education and research, and ways to make AAPM welcoming to physics in medicine, whatever that may look like in the future.

The first order of business for the Board, however, is to approve the strategic plan that all of the councils and committees have been working on for the last two years. The document is not so much a strategic plan as a mission plan; that is, a guide to see that what the Association does - all of its activities - align with our mission statement. Discrepancies could lead to changes in what we do (usually adding actions we may be missing) or questioning how we have stated our mission.

AAPM is incredibly productive. Look at all the reports we generate and educational and scientific programs we put on. This only happens because of the volunteer work of our members. Sometimes, the structure of our councils can impose hurdles to our work when the topic falls in more than one council or committee. An ad hoc committee has been formed to consider possible ways to ease impediments to projects resulting from our organizational structure.

AAPM is its members and it needs your input and participation.

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Comments (2)

Dr. Pichardo

01-13-2018 08:51 AM

I would like the AAPM to find a way to fill the knowledge gaps that many board-certified physicists have, including myself. I find knowledge gaps in tasks that may be considered fundamental such as MU calculations for photons and electrons. The process for calculating a block factor for an electron beam is not explained in such a manner as to make it practical. If the aperture is a rectangle it is relatively straight forward, but what do you do with the aperture for a keloid breast that includes the nipple and scar under the breast? What do you do with apertures smaller than 3 cm in diameter? Also, how to interpret IMRT QA results and how to diagnose what is wrong: is the problem with the planning, the physics data, or the machine? The process by which MU 2nd check programs calculate MU for IMRT and VMAT fields is a mystery. Trying to find didactic, practical information about these and other topics is very difficult and very time consuming, which is not feasible for a physicist working in a very busy clinic. I have placed questions related to these topics in the MEDPHYSUSA listserver and the answers are contradictory and unclear.


Dr. Thomadsen

01-25-2018 18:21 PM

Dear Carlos, sorry to take so long to reply. I was traveling and then had problems being able to post a response. Long ago, in the 1970s, the AAPM Summer Schools often were on basic topics for most of five days. I was at one on nuclear medicine, starting from basic interactions. While no substitute for a good graduate program, it was a very good review and I learned a lot. Now, the Summer Schools are on much more advanced topics. The closest the AAPM provides is the day-and-a-half Review Courses just before the annual meeting. This might be a good time to consider periodic, more in-depth basic review courses. There are some courses offered annually (or thereabouts) by reputable institutions - true, often fairly expensive. Thank you for starting the conversation on this topic. I will bring it to appropriate committees.